Flex that crown: Wear your natural hair how you want it, when you want it

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By Sherri Kolade
The Michigan Chronicle

With an unshakeable, penetrating stare, a brown-skinned Black woman takes off her glasses, her wavy wig and wig cap.

In an Instagram video, she reveals her natural hair — then takes off her green suit jacket and swings it in front of the camera, which transitions to a new scene and reveals her smile along with her own luscious curls as Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” song plays in the background.

The video was posted on the Crown Act’s Instagram page which is dedicated to reminding Black women about the beauty and diversity of their hair, while reminding them, too, that hair discrimination needs to end in the workplace, in schools and, ahem, in the pools: we see you, Olympics.

The Crown Act stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” and is a law that prohibits race-based hair discrimination — a denial of employment and educational opportunities because of one’s hair texture or protective hairstyles like braids, locs, twists or Bantu knots.

The Crown Act statistics show that discrimination against hair in the United States, especially on the job. Their website states that Black women are 30 percent more likely to be made aware of a workplace policy, which are forms of microaggression.

In states like California, Nevada, Colorado, Virginia and New York, the Crown Act is the law. In Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Massachusetts there is pending legislation filed or pre-filed.  Many states including South Dakota, Texas and Indiana had legislation filed but did not pass it.

It was first introduced in California in January 2019 and signed into law the same year on July 3.

While necessary strides are being made to ensure that Black women’s natural hair can show up unapologetically across the country, there’s local movement, too.

Mariah Johnson, the owner of Westland-based Naptural Rootz Salon, came on the natural hair care scene when her salon opened in 2020 — a month before the pandemic.

Mariah Johnson, owner of Westland-based Naptural Rootz Hair Salon, has been natural for over a decade and wants her clients, among others, to be inspired by their natural hair. (Photo by Sherri Kolade)

Johnson, who rocks fuchsia-colored eyebrows and a sharp fade told the Michigan Chronicle that her salon does everything from loc maintenance to braiding and barbering services.

Johnson said that Naptural is one of the only natural hair salons in metro Detroit that is catering to Black women who wear their hair naturally, which today is still a big deal to some who don’t get why they do.

“We wanted to create an environment we could go and have our natural hair taken care of,” Johnson said. “We do specialize in natural hair care not just styling but the actual care of your hair.”

She added that it is “crazy” how modern-day society expects Black women to conform to norms “that are not the norms with my hair.”

Johnson, 30, said that well-known comments from natural hair detractors are typically saying that natural-haired women need to wear their hair straight, get a weave or, if it’s natural, then lay them edges.

For Johnson, who wore sew-ins monthly in high school and college said that her older sister who never had a perm encouraged her to go natural, and she just tried it sometime around 2010.

“I had a little bitty TWA [short natural hairstyle] and never looked back on relaxers and anything like that,” she said, adding in 2016 her hair grew beyond shoulder length but she shaved her head and has been short ever since.

“[I’ve] been one haircut away from being bald – [it is] the most confident I have ever been; such an aesthetic to the look I am going for. I love my hair being short,” she said, adding that she encourages other women and “speaks life” into their hair so to speak.

“I’m really a person that wants to speak life into other women,” she said, adding that she bumped into someone she went to high school with at a woman’s empowerment event. “She was telling me about her hair almost in tears saying she doesn’t feel confident wearing her hair natural.”

Johnson said, “It’s a journey” Black women are on, and continue to be on, with their natural haircare.

“It’s a journey after we’ve been conditioned for generations,” she said. “I feel like I am here to help you along the way; I feel like I am on a journey every day myself, but I can just guide you along the way. Your natural hair is absolutely beautiful. … As you continue to grow with it your confidence will grow.”

Johnson’s sister, Sherri Chisholm, who grew up in Romulus but presently lives in Charlotte, NC, works in corporate America and said she has straightened her hair for years and has never had a relaxer.

“I wore it straightened for the beginning phase of my career in corporate America – it was part of my brand,” Chisholm said, adding that she transitioned careers (still in corporate America) and found that many times people had questions about her hair. One person even said she does not look like she went to Harvard University, but rather Howard University.

“[It’s the] idea of what professionalism and education look like should come in a certain package,” she said of the comment that came from a white male coworker. “I don’t come in the package they think I should.”

Chisholm, who leads a nonprofit in Charlotte that is focused on racial equity and economic mobility, said that she is thankful now the Crown Act is becoming more popular so women like herself can wear their God-given hair how they want and simply “feel confident.”

“Just as we are and beautiful,” she said.

For more information visit https://www.thecrownact.com/

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